How does 3D printing help me with mechanism design?

mechanism design and 3D printing

Have you ever got in a thinking trap or data collection trap and couldn’t able to move forward with your design? I have been in this research trap many times while mechanism design.

The basic principle of designing any mechanism is to subdivide the mechanism into tiny mechanisms. Then subdivide them into their constituent pieces. And voila! Now it’s easier to conquer them one by one.

According to the kinematics of machines – a machine is a group of mechanisms. So break it into smaller mechanisms.

Hi, I am Prakhar. And today I’ll discuss how 3D printing helps me with the mechanism design. Before going into details let’s first discuss the design in different stages.

There are many different stages of design – Concept design, Proof of concept design, First functional mechanism design, Engineering design, Manufacturing Design, and Production ready design.

My process of mechanism design involves the following stages. Let us say that I need to design a material delivery system.

Idea exploration for mechanism design

At first, I get the idea for a specific task. I do my research for the mechanisms and what material is to be delivered. I am a visual person so I need to know why and how for each and every aspect of that material delivery system.

I do pen-paper exercises and jot down the ideas and in parallel, I create a project board on OneNote, where I keep all the visual elements and data inputs. Now I start to break the mechanism into sub-mechanisms such as how the material will be staked, how it will be sorted, and how it will be positioned to carry. Based on these questions I start breaking the mechanism into sub-mechanisms.

Concept design

Here I need more visual aspects. Now I start taking dimensions and putting them down on my OneNote and/or keep making 2D drawings via pen paper or on iPad. Then I break down these sub-mechanisms into their components. Here I create phases of the project.

At this stage, I try to conquer one phase at a time by making proof of concepts. So I start making CAD models of components on Autodesk Fusion 360. And in parallel start buying the required hardware and other components.

3D printing or Additive manufacturing

As soon as I do CAD modeling of the first component, I fire up one of my 3D printers. I keep on designing and printing. For this stage, my goal is to quickly get the visual aspect. I needed physical models in real life with all the parts assembled.

I put together all the hardware and bought out parts with 3D-printed parts.

Proof of concept of mechanism design

After assembling the one sub-mechanism, it is time to test it out and gather real-life data and do the necessary changes. At this point, I look for all the dimensional optimizations and overall proof of concept. It is the best time to check whether you need to integrate some components together and make them one or subdivide any complex part.

When proof of concept is done and minor tweaks have been finished, I move to the second sub-mechanism and repeat the cycle.

Integration of all the sub-mechanisms

After all the mechanisms get proven, I start merging them. I keep the provisions in the components for this merger and for smooth integration and synchronization. There are chances that a few mountings may need minor changes for perfect integrations. The final trial takes place. And now we are ready for the manufacturing design and release drawings for the manufacturing.


In conclusion, 3D printing helps with quick visualization and proof of concept. It reduces the cost of trials and saves time. 3D printing has some shortcomings but at the proof of concept level going with other manufacturing processes is sometimes too costly and time-consuming. 3D printing helps me a lot with mechanism design and gives me a good visual aspect.

Do you use 3D printing at the early concept stage in your design run?

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